Ohio State University Extension Bulletin

Multiflora Rose Control

Bulletin 857

Control by Animal Grazing

You can use goats or sheep or a combination of both, with or without cattle, to control multiflora rose (see Figures 14 and 15). This method is especially appropriate on steeper terrain. An application of herbicide or rotary mowing is suggested prior to grazing to weaken brush, if topography permits. In recent West Virginia University studies, goats successfully opened severely brush covered pasture in one season. Several more seasons of managed grazing, however, were required to achieve near complete plant kill of multiflora and the other brush species present.

Figure 14 Figure 15

Goats, unlike sheep or cattle, will destroy many brush, saplings, and small trees by defoliation and debarking. Goats are not deterred by thorny vegetation. They defoliate higher up on brush and trees than sheep by standing on their hind legs. Generally goats will defoliate multiflora rose stems to a height of about 5 feet.

In West Virginia University research comparing goats and sheep, goats reduced brush cover in pasture from 45% to less than 15% in one season. Sheep required three seasons to accomplish the same reduction. Goats were able to clear mixed species of brush irrespective of whether a herbicide or mowing was used initially. With sheep, the inclusion of a mowing or herbicide application made them as effective in initial clearing as goats.

Spring and early summer proved to be the critical times for control of brush with goats or sheep. Grazing after August 1 was of negligible value. Eight to 10 mature goats or sheep per acre may be required early in the season, but this stocking rate must be reduced later in the summer when pasture growth slows.

Even though goats can significantly reduce brush from a pasture in one season, actual plant kill of brush species requires continued grazing management for several seasons. Brush was reduced to 2% of pasture cover after 5 years of grazing by goats.

Proper rotational grazing management is more difficult with mixed animal species. Having enough animals for early grazing to defoliate brush rapidly without overgrazing the grasses is important. Overgrazing of pasture grasses is more of a problem with sheep because they prefer and consume grass first, then they browse the brush. Goats have the opposite preference.

West Virginia University research suggests that the most effective clearing and subsequent plant kill of multiflora rose in pastures could result from grazing a mixture of goats, sheep, and cattle. Higher goat numbers would be used at the beginning, then reduced after 3 to 4 seasons. Inclusion of some sheep or goats with cattle is required to ensure long term animal control of multiflora rose in pastures. Cattle serve a useful mechanical function when grazed with goats or sheep even from the beginning of land clearance. They make pathways and trample brush killed or partially killed by the goats or sheep. West Virginia research studied only goats alone or sheep alone during the first 3 years. Sheep and goats were combined in some treatments during the final 2 years of research.

Some eastern Ohio farmers have satisfactorily used Angora goats for brush cleanup in place of dairy or meat-type goats. Angoras are easier to control, because they do not jump as high, and keep within fences. Also, sale of wool offers the potential for additional income. The horned Angora goats use horns to pull down multiflora stems for feeding. They normally are sheared twice a year (September and March).For about 2 weeks following shearing, they need to be protected from cold rains.

Successful brush control with grazing animals depends on both good fencing and a good pasture use and development plan. Keys to pasture management include: 1) good fences, 2) rotational grazing, 3) enough animals to defoliate brush in the spring without severely overgrazing the grasses, and 4) maintenance of proper pasture fertility to improve grass cover and minimize soil erosion as brushy species decrease in the pasture.

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